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Music as part of the problem-solving space

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Papus79
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Music as part of the problem-solving space

Post by Papus79 » November 3rd, 2019, 9:53 pm

I'm curious to know what thoughts there might be here not just on people's affinity and lack of affinity to music but what they gravitate to and why that may in some cases use as a canvas for sussing out complex problems in a similar way to great science fiction meant to thought-experiment or walk out human dilemmas.

Whatever that can be said about it it's clearly a powerful cultural layer and a zone of problem-solving and sizing in its own right. My own take on what music can quite often be seen as - each piece is something of a multi-dimensional prism (meaning parameters - not hippy jive) that attempts to define a certain enclosed cognitive or emotional space, and a lot of vocal artists over the past twenty years who've been keen on this did a lot to hollow out their lyrical content out for concern that they might be in some instances over-determining what the space they created had in it for content meeting those principles (or yeah - sometimes lack of talent but you could see when it added something or when it didn't). I say 'quite often' because someone might be able to argue that this is a sub-category and it would be interesting to hear what that would be but I'm denoting that this isn't something I'd put 100% closed-loop certainty on.

For someone who has strong leanings in this direction I'd be curious to see what other people think - ie. whether music's just a stone you can potentially sharpen steel on when its done right or whether some people's realizations in and through it actually seem like philosophic or mathematical proofs to certain societal and/or archetypal complexes and in ground-breaking ways. A lot of times where I've heard a piece of music where it seemed like someone dropped the equivalent on a cultural nuke on a fault line it was something which was that keenly observant in the music itself, the lyrics, or almost always some combination of both. I'd add as well that there's plenty of music that seems to deliver on this without lyrics in the way of clever improvisations or bringing what would usually be non-adjacent concepts or moods in close quarter with one another. It would be interesting to see how much spill-over people see here.

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Re: Music as part of the problem-solving space

Post by Hereandnow » November 4th, 2019, 10:49 am

Papus79

I'm curious to know what thoughts there might be here not just on people's affinity and lack of affinity to music but what they gravitate to and why that may in some cases use as a canvas for sussing out complex problems in a similar way to great science fiction meant to thought-experiment or walk out human dilemmas.
I never thought of music as an enhancement for cognition. Perhaps there are certain minimalist pieces that settle the mind into grooves of comfortable thinking. Or soft jazz. But these, in the act of thinking, offer less an overt aesthetic, and more of a background comfort zone. that is, unless you focus on their musical aesthetic and not on thought, in which case they can be beautiful in themselves.

But problem solving in music? This:
in and through it actually seem like philosophic or mathematical proofs to certain societal and/or archetypal complexes and in ground-breaking ways. A lot of times where I've heard a piece of music where it seemed like someone dropped the equivalent on a cultural nuke on a fault line it was something which was that keenly observant in the music itself, the lyrics, or almost always some combination of both.
is an intriguing thing to say. Poetry (lyrics) has the the resources of language to create meaning. Great poetry can distill discursive thinking into startling, concise epiphany. Imagery and metaphor can transfigure the world. Music as such has no cognitive part to it, and it representational possibilities are extremely limited ( think Beethoven's pastoral symphony when the weather gets stormy: the music gets tumultuous. Close to representation as it can get, I think); but it does aesthetically transform the world. This is why movies have soundtracks that make the mundane into the tragic, the comical, the romantic, and so on. Perhaps this is what you have in mind: Music has a presentive power in that it can bring a compelling structure of everydayness, and in doing so, lays out a horizon of who we are, how extraordinarily the world can be taken up. Music in this function elevates the world to its greatest expression and presents interpretative possibilities that go beyond the ordinary.

This is an idealist look (not philosophical idealism) in the sense that ideals are fuller expressions of what we could be. After all, we live in a narrative always, already, so it is not a flight of fancy any more than grocery shopping: in that every day stream of affairs, the phone calls, the title at the office, the role at home, all part of a narrative about who you are. Music takes this common narrative and deepens it, idealizes it. It can be epiphanic, as you say, nuclear.

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Re: Music as part of the problem-solving space

Post by Papus79 » November 4th, 2019, 11:49 am

Hereandnow wrote:
November 4th, 2019, 10:49 am
I never thought of music as an enhancement for cognition. Perhaps there are certain minimalist pieces that settle the mind into grooves of comfortable thinking. Or soft jazz. But these, in the act of thinking, offer less an overt aesthetic, and more of a background comfort zone. that is, unless you focus on their musical aesthetic and not on thought, in which case they can be beautiful in themselves.
Fair point and I'll try to define this along the lines of those observations - I'd think of the aesthetic as the space being set up or framed by the instrument choices, frequency ranges, what types of emotion the music is intended to pull, ie. it's building a 'set and setting'. Aesthetics I don't think are necessarily content-free, at minimum they're instructive but at maximum they can actually help define the space for concepts to fit in quite well.

I'll add - I'm coming at this as well from the space of being an amateur producer, spent a long time with trying to master mix-downs and such or figure out what kind of spaces I wanted to build and admittedly I'd need to unpack some of this a bit more which I'm willing to.

For context as well, to maybe put a mark on such a big map of where I'm coming from - I have the tarot key of the magician as my current avatar (I chose that because IMHO tarot has been used as a sort of loose-associated symbols in a rather deliberate way since the 18th century and I think it's a fascinating framework if it could be developed more), if it wasn't that my fallback would be the Metalheadz logo. I'm maybe not one to say that everything Goldie touches is perfection, that would be a sort of idiotic fandom, but that label's been something of a wellspring of inspiration for at least 20 or more years of my life as well as a lot other closely associated labels and artists. To add - that genre, ie. drum n bass, especially in its more classic and exploratory forms, is doing a heck of a lot of heavy lifting, concept-binding, and doing so in these very wickedly improvisational ways that are heart-and-soul jazz inspired but almost lifting it off into something that borders on chaos magic in its memetic depth.
Hereandnow wrote:
November 4th, 2019, 10:49 am
is an intriguing thing to say. Poetry (lyrics) has the the resources of language to create meaning. Great poetry can distill discursive thinking into startling, concise epiphany. Imagery and metaphor can transfigure the world. Music as such has no cognitive part to it, and it representational possibilities are extremely limited ( think Beethoven's pastoral symphony when the weather gets stormy: the music gets tumultuous. Close to representation as it can get, I think); but it does aesthetically transform the world. This is why movies have soundtracks that make the mundane into the tragic, the comical, the romantic, and so on. Perhaps this is what you have in mind: Music has a presentive power in that it can bring a compelling structure of everydayness, and in doing so, lays out a horizon of who we are, how extraordinarily the world can be taken up. Music in this function elevates the world to its greatest expression and presents interpretative possibilities that go beyond the ordinary.
Lyrics might be a good place to start perhaps. Thinking of pieces of music that silenced a room and people really had to think about whether they'd clap or get the performer out of the room as fast as possible because they brought up something no one wanted to think about (even if they needed to) - Strange Fruit by Billie Holiday is one such example. That's where confrontation with meaning is quite obvious, ie. when a musician actually strikes that much of a chord with the audience on some particular societal issue. What might get a bit more esoteric and vary from person to person is to what degree you can search the spaces created by instrumentation for either new possibilities for engaging certain concepts or applying the shape of that space to various motifs or logical problems.

To that extent musical spaces can be a bit like mathematical equations in that the principles can be transferable albeit that's tricky and I don't think that level of engagement is as common unless someone of the sort who practically 'lives for music'. When those mathematical framings are so well built and resonant that most people catch with it on some level what ends up happening is you have people inexplicably playing a song over and over, a bit like their minds are still processing it. A good example of one where that happened, and I normally don't listen to pop music for the reasons most people avoid it, Grimes and Io put their finger on something, ie. shook the psychopathology tree at a foundational level, and it was one where I actually felt like looping it a fair amount of times just to check on how many points of contact it was making - it was a lot.
Hereandnow wrote:
November 4th, 2019, 10:49 am
This is an idealist look (not philosophical idealism) in the sense that ideals are fuller expressions of what we could be. After all, we live in a narrative always, already, so it is not a flight of fancy any more than grocery shopping: in that every day stream of affairs, the phone calls, the title at the office, the role at home, all part of a narrative about who you are. Music takes this common narrative and deepens it, idealizes it. It can be epiphanic, as you say, nuclear.
So that's the escapist way of looking at music, and I look at that somewhat like the fiction-lovers outlook on reading. Still science fiction does exist and I do think there's plenty of science fiction and even science-fantasy in the useful sense of exploring vast archetypal terrains (in the Tolkien sense) when you get artists who know what they're doing and why they're doing it. To dip back into drum n bass for a moment - classic Suv and Krust tunes from the late 90's were quite exploratory in this way, some of Digital's tracks were gripping in this way, Dillinja did a fair amount of it, Photek was explicitly known for it, and I see guys like Blocks & Escher these days actually reaching back into that same space at the same time as I see Loxy and Resound as well as DBridge barreling forward into increasingly interesting terrain as far as framing human experience (I could comment that ASC's Samurai Music label for 'gray area' hits this on unusual levels and I'm still trying to unpack a fair amount of what they're doing).

I get that what I'm talking about can sound like it's picking at the edges where a lot of people just tend to assume apophenia when they don't understand what they're hearing, my analogy might be that you can hang a coat on a coat rack just that hanging an anvil from it and watching it break doesn't mean coat racks don't exist anymore than setting a big block engine on a kitchen table displays that kitchen tables aren't real. I'm saying that because I get the sense that I'll probably need to explain what I'm saying more as this thread goes on and I'm perfectly willing to elaborate the rules of engagement on this topic for the sake of clarifying that they can be tacked down relatively well and don't need to be shifted.

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Re: Music as part of the problem-solving space

Post by Felix » November 4th, 2019, 7:17 pm

There is a reason why music is prominent in religious services and it can be a spiritual practice in itself.

The music of Gurdjieff -- https://bit.ly/2Cd6RQ9
"We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are." - Anaïs Nin

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Re: Music as part of the problem-solving space

Post by Papus79 » November 4th, 2019, 10:08 pm

Felix wrote:
November 4th, 2019, 7:17 pm
There is a reason why music is prominent in religious services and it can be a spiritual practice in itself.

The music of Gurdjieff -- https://bit.ly/2Cd6RQ9
It's absolutely there, but I'm starting to question if to some degree we might be culturally ready to pull it in a bit closer. We tend to fly this one at two extremes - one is we put it up out of reach, sort of bathe in combinatorial explosion when we can find it, that's the mystical element, and on the other hand there's the language of bars, time-signatures, music theory, etc. that can get so rigid that it burns the substance right out of it. I think there's a sort of middle-way between these two extremes to examine this and looking at the conceptual spaces set up by the instruments and melodies, identifying that space as something as a lens or prism, and thinking that often enough when that prism takes on a clear enough shape there's something proximately mathematical happening (perhaps in a slightly more abstract way than what music theory would lend) it seems like you can get a certain kind of transference from that.

As far as the stuff that seems incredibly 'healthy', you get some very big-inner-world introverts who've been through hell and back, made it out with coping mechanisms most people couldn't hold a candle to, and their music is dripping with hints of how those self-reinforcing mechanisms work for and in them.

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Re: Music as part of the problem-solving space

Post by Felix » November 5th, 2019, 3:26 am

Papus79: As far as the stuff that seems incredibly 'healthy', you get some very big-inner-world introverts who've been through hell and back, made it out with coping mechanisms most people couldn't hold a candle to, and their music is dripping with hints of how those self-reinforcing mechanisms work for and in them.
For example?
"We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are." - Anaïs Nin

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Re: Music as part of the problem-solving space

Post by Papus79 » November 5th, 2019, 7:51 am

Felix wrote:
November 5th, 2019, 3:26 am
For example?
Getting directly back into my own play list - Timeless by Goldie (even somewhat more developed in Journey Man), and looking at Mother and Truth - those two are pretty big self-exorcisms (Truth actually has quite an interesting story - seems to be written 'self to self'), got me through some of the hardest times of my life in that it mirrored a lot of my own inner states - the content of what he was going through I'm sure wasn't identical but the shape of the concepts and their relevance was what helped me frame my own orientation to given situations quite often and put myself, internally at least, in a respectable position. You see both deep inner struggle and the fruit of it with Roger Waters 'The Wall' but in Roger's case it's more like he's fighting to gain inner sanity or power from a life that's left him a bit fragmented where as in the former examples the artist is fighting to keep and further develop a deeply personal and large accrual of sacred structures - or at least the transcendent aim of them (wow can I relate to that) - against adversity and onslaught from both without and within. In both The Wall and Saturnz Return it's dealing with a lot of shadow but in the later it seems like there's deep know-how as for how to keep the upper hand.

I do think maybe some of what helped me get a handle on this way of looking at it, while I've probably done it all of my life in terms of how I orient to music, studying tarot and Qabalah for a while actually gave me a sense of what it is to have a modular approach to abstract concepts and almost look at them a bit like object-oriented programming. At a minimum Hermetic mysticism seems to be about open-sourcing and self-authoring to what degree you can your own emotional software and that's another thing I see when I look back at a lot of the terminator and liquid-metal sort of art that you particularly see with drum n bass and various artists in the proper depths of that genre, the liquid metal is something of an analogy for self-authorship. It's like people have different ways of getting there (formal or informal, I did a bit of both) but again - you see profound self-authorship in profound music and it seems to be something that can translate quite often from musician or producer to listener at least in terms of planting a flag in a particular part of the landscape or telling a listener what kinds of landscapes might exist that they weren't previously aware of (especially younger listeners).

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Re: Music as part of the problem-solving space

Post by Thomyum2 » November 5th, 2019, 2:29 pm

Papus79 wrote:
November 3rd, 2019, 9:53 pm
I'm curious to know what thoughts there might be here not just on people's affinity and lack of affinity to music but what they gravitate to and why that may in some cases use as a canvas for sussing out complex problems in a similar way to great science fiction meant to thought-experiment or walk out human dilemmas.
I’m not sure I understand your post completely, but I was struck in particular by your mention of science fiction as a possible parallel with music and this is an idea that has occurred to me as well. (I have been a life-long fan of sci-fi, and also trained as a classical musician, so these are two areas that reasonate with me too.)

I see music (and all art really) as existing on a continuum between the familiar and the novel, and thus having a relationship with oth the past and the future. It has to have elements of both to take root in our consciousness. The familiar elements allow us to understand and follow, and the novel elements catch our attention and interest, giving us a reason to listen and pay attention for seomthing new. Every composer of music basically has to add their own voice to the existing musical culture, but it has to be done in a way that makes sense and can draw listeners along, so music is always in a constant state of evolution. So in a sense, composing music is an act of imagining the future of music, of expressing the artist’s vision of what music might or could be, and through that very act of creativity, an act of bringing that future about. And there’s where I think you can find a parallels with science fiction literature, which is the creative act of imaging the stories of our future lives and histories.

Another thing I believe music (and other art forms) can do is to is to act as a vessel to carry, or as a medium to transmit our culture into the future - to allow future generations to be able to experience an aspect the lives we live now. So art can act as a mode of communication with the future that I think is able to transmit actual experiences and not just simply information as pure language alone does. (Interestingly, there's an episode of Star Trek TNG called ‘The Inner Light’ that actually explores this idea in a really unique way, which in the interest of avoiding spoilers I won’t describe but I’d highly recommend seeing if you haven’t already.)

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Re: Music as part of the problem-solving space

Post by Papus79 » November 6th, 2019, 12:12 am

Thomyum2 wrote:
November 5th, 2019, 2:29 pm
I see music (and all art really) as existing on a continuum between the familiar and the novel, and thus having a relationship with oth the past and the future. It has to have elements of both to take root in our consciousness. The familiar elements allow us to understand and follow, and the novel elements catch our attention and interest, giving us a reason to listen and pay attention for seomthing new. Every composer of music basically has to add their own voice to the existing musical culture, but it has to be done in a way that makes sense and can draw listeners along, so music is always in a constant state of evolution. So in a sense, composing music is an act of imagining the future of music, of expressing the artist’s vision of what music might or could be, and through that very act of creativity, an act of bringing that future about. And there’s where I think you can find a parallels with science fiction literature, which is the creative act of imaging the stories of our future lives and histories.
But that's also where I think it resembles science fiction in being able to frame problems or solutions, or at least the space where a person or group of musicians sense that they're seeing or finding them. I remember a lot of the real 'proper' sci-fi was very much warnings about misuse of technology, technology meeting human avarice or immaturity in dystopian ways, novel situations that cultures get trapped and taken down by where one thing or another hit us in a way that our adaptations weren't prepared for, and you have times too where science fiction was even just focused on the strangeness of human psychology (Vonnegut especially). Quite possible that the science fiction metaphor might be a bit more accessible than the 'prism' metaphor, ie. it's a defined space with quite often deliberate content but done in an open and ambiguous enough way to let people find their own angles and insight into the content.

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Re: Music as part of the problem-solving space

Post by h_k_s » November 7th, 2019, 12:38 pm

Papus79 wrote:
November 3rd, 2019, 9:53 pm
I'm curious to know what thoughts there might be here not just on people's affinity and lack of affinity to music but what they gravitate to and why that may in some cases use as a canvas for sussing out complex problems in a similar way to great science fiction meant to thought-experiment or walk out human dilemmas.

Whatever that can be said about it it's clearly a powerful cultural layer and a zone of problem-solving and sizing in its own right. My own take on what music can quite often be seen as - each piece is something of a multi-dimensional prism (meaning parameters - not hippy jive) that attempts to define a certain enclosed cognitive or emotional space, and a lot of vocal artists over the past twenty years who've been keen on this did a lot to hollow out their lyrical content out for concern that they might be in some instances over-determining what the space they created had in it for content meeting those principles (or yeah - sometimes lack of talent but you could see when it added something or when it didn't). I say 'quite often' because someone might be able to argue that this is a sub-category and it would be interesting to hear what that would be but I'm denoting that this isn't something I'd put 100% closed-loop certainty on.

For someone who has strong leanings in this direction I'd be curious to see what other people think - ie. whether music's just a stone you can potentially sharpen steel on when its done right or whether some people's realizations in and through it actually seem like philosophic or mathematical proofs to certain societal and/or archetypal complexes and in ground-breaking ways. A lot of times where I've heard a piece of music where it seemed like someone dropped the equivalent on a cultural nuke on a fault line it was something which was that keenly observant in the music itself, the lyrics, or almost always some combination of both. I'd add as well that there's plenty of music that seems to deliver on this without lyrics in the way of clever improvisations or bringing what would usually be non-adjacent concepts or moods in close quarter with one another. It would be interesting to see how much spill-over people see here.
I'm not too good at music, although our choir director once asked me to sing a solo in church at Xmas, "What Child Is This?"

I can sing ok, and these days mostly sing hymns, such as "How Great Thou Art" and "We Gather Together" etc. I am a Romantic philosopher, remember?

I tried playing guitar for a while, but never got any good at it. I did notice the mathematical sequences of notes on strings and of chords though.

Music is a pleasant experience which results from vibrations within the medium of the fluid we call air, caused by energy disturbances such as clashing of cymbals, blowing through pipes, or plucking strings, etc.

Singing is pleasant as well. We mostly all learned to sing in preschool as children. It was something for us to do before we learned our ABC's (alpha-veta or alef-bayt) and numbers (0, 1, 2, … to infinity).

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Re: Music as part of the problem-solving space

Post by Pantagruel » November 7th, 2019, 2:10 pm

For me, music can be sublime. It gives me glimpses of the state of mind I want to permanently achieve.

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Re: Music as part of the problem-solving space

Post by Papus79 » November 7th, 2019, 11:08 pm

Pantagruel wrote:
November 7th, 2019, 2:10 pm
For me, music can be sublime. It gives me glimpses of the state of mind I want to permanently achieve.
It definitely can. I think even from childhood certain classical hit me quite favorably, then it was friends and cousins in grade school getting me into things like metal, grunge, skater thrash, industrial, trip hop, etc. and when I got to the end of high school that's where I got hooked on what I'm still hooked on.

For states that I really long for it seems to be like this - I long to not just embody them for the time I'm listening but process, internalize, and be able to dispense that energy. I've increasingly realized over the past few year just how foul a world it is in general and I'd much rather be trying to put something out that bites into it than add to the problems so it's one of those things where it helps support me continuing to be who I'd rather be as a person.

For my OP though - I actually have a feeling, especially as the sales of pop is likely to drop off if it runs out of ways to reinvent itself and when 'new' anything for its own sake isn't cutting it anymore it's quite likely that people will increasingly push music to be saturated with information and experiment with it as I mentioned structuring information and using it even more intensely as a communication media.

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Re: Music as part of the problem-solving space

Post by Thomyum2 » November 8th, 2019, 3:14 pm

Papus79 wrote:
November 7th, 2019, 11:08 pm
For my OP though - I actually have a feeling, especially as the sales of pop is likely to drop off if it runs out of ways to reinvent itself and when 'new' anything for its own sake isn't cutting it anymore it's quite likely that people will increasingly push music to be saturated with information and experiment with it as I mentioned structuring information and using it even more intensely as a communication media.
I think this is exactly what happened in the early twentieth century with classical music. That tradition was evolving along a path that was, as you say, running out of ways to reinvent itself. Wagner and Mahler had taken harmonic evolution about as far as it could go, and then Schoenberg and his Viennese school took it to its breaking point and beyond into the pure abstraction of serialism, and other composers that followed, e.g. Stravinsky or Shostakovich, spun if off in still other directions. A similar thing happened in the rest of the arts around the same time.

I don't think the world has caught up with those changes yet, though. In the hundred years or so since then, most people still see the arts as a kind of consumer commodity that we can use to decorate our lives, and people make their musical choices based on how it makes them 'feel' rather than on a desire to understand it. But though I'm not sure I understand exactly what you're saying, I do agree with you that musical and artistic creativity has the potential to be much more than just entertainment.

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Re: Music as part of the problem-solving space

Post by Papus79 » November 9th, 2019, 9:44 am

Thomyum2 wrote:
November 8th, 2019, 3:14 pm
I don't think the world has caught up with those changes yet, though. In the hundred years or so since then, most people still see the arts as a kind of consumer commodity that we can use to decorate our lives, and people make their musical choices based on how it makes them 'feel' rather than on a desire to understand it. But though I'm not sure I understand exactly what you're saying, I do agree with you that musical and artistic creativity has the potential to be much more than just entertainment.
To the people who are actually 'on fire with it' it's always a lot more, it's more like them injecting the essence of their deepest selves into instrumentation (bringing up Goldie again - it's something he's done fearlessly).

This is where I have to sort of bring up a side tangent and say a few things about the culture we live in. I had a hard learning curve socially for most of my life, from 20 to maybe 38 I saw things that I was slowly putting together as far as people and culture were concerned and it was actually wrapped up in the 160-some pages of John Gray's 'Straw Dogs - On Humans And Other Animals'. Life is a Darwinian fitness war, people are interested in food, sex, money, accrual of social capital, and aside from being attractive, naturally graceful in the physical and social sense, and physically fit you also need to be effortlessly intelligible to other people. From that perspective if your IQ or various blends of intelligence are more than one standard deviation outside the mean, or if you have a physical disability, or if you have a neurological disability or even just a few facial muscles that don't do what people expect them to do (thinking of Monday on Youtube) - your ability to play that game is practically toast. Who you are, what you are as a person, it'll barely matter - it might keep you out of jail to be a decent person but it won't keep you employed, heck even being decent, talented, and accountable isn't guaranteed to do that when the bottom line reality is that people fundamentally aren't reasonable and are even more terrified of anything that's different than they're terrified of the narcissists and psychopaths who set the rhythm of society (and I have to understand this as a deep fear that 'outsiders' have competitive advantages that they couldn't hope to keep up with - otherwise if they thought it was inferiority they'd just ignore you).

I think that's where anything like this would always be either an outsiders and/or intelligentsia conversation for either the autists of the world to have or the Bret and Eric Weinsteins, Sam Harris's, etc. to have. Everyone else seems to find salvation doing whatever they can to be the Platonic person of 100 IQ so they can swim effortlessly in society and then taking whatever they have over and above that, assuming they can beat it into submission, to channel it toward financial income and status.

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Re: Music as part of the problem-solving space

Post by Repoman05 » November 12th, 2019, 4:17 am

Music is really just a backdrop that gives the impression of an army. Every animal does it. It's most common in birds or insects.

First show of force, you might say. It invigorates because it sounds like you're part of a successful army. We took it to a new level but it's the same instinct it's accessing. It's a call to cultivate your vanity and arrogance to induce fear in the other animals and encourages you to learn the same song lest you one for whom the bell tolls when you can't answer it back. That's how it makes groups out of people because no one can answer it back.

When asking questions like this, disregard everything you've learned. If it had an answer you could find from conventional wisdom it wouldn't still be a question. Agnosia caused by collectivist codification just makes questions you could have answered yourself.

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